Ballyclare boy Ross Patterson celebrated being in remission from cancer on the second anniversary of his diagnosis with a ‘wonder goal’ in his first football match.
The brave Ballynure Primary pupil was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in February 2014 when he was just four years old.
After Ross’s diagnosis, the local community rallied round to raise thousands of pounds for charities One in Three Cancer Support, CLIC Sargent and the Children’s Cancer Unit Charity in his name.
His family also organised several blood donation drives and events to raise money for local cancer charities.
While six-year-old Ross is now in remission, he is still being treated with oral chemotherapy, so care must be taken to protect him from infection.
His proud mum, Claire said that watching him play football for Ballyclare Colts in their game against Carrick team Barn United’s youth side reminded her of just how far her son had come in his cancer battle.
“When Ross was undergoing the most intensive phase of treatment he was wrapped in cotton wool and I have to confess that watching him play was a bit nerve-wracking for me,” she laughed. “I was hoping that no-one would tackle him!
“Ross got 100 per cent for effort, he ran on and he even scored a wonder goal and the team ended up winning 16-2.
“It gives him a lift and helps him forget he has health issues.
“He is now saying he wants to be a professional footballer and follow in the footsteps of his big brother Jack, who plays for Swansea Academy and Club NI. Ross really looks up to him.”
Claire explained that Ross will continue to undergo chemotherapy treatment until July 2017, but only when he reaches 14 years old in 2022 will he be declared cancer-free.
“Ross has never once complained about taking his chemotherapy,” Claire continued.
“He would suffer from very dry, itchy and sore skin on his face and previously he lost all his hair, but that has now grown back.
“We are taking part in a clinical trial which is trying to prove that the other injections traditionally taken during chemotherapy are not necessary.
“There can be four or five different types of chemotherapy used, but Ross is on two different chemotherapies, which reduces the side effects.
“It means that he doesn’t have to have a central line in and he has more freedom.”
The family recently enjoyed a relaxing holiday at Daisy Lodge in Newcastle, a centre run by the Cancer Fund for Children to provide short breaks for families of cancer sufferers.
“It is a magnificent place,” said Claire. “You go in and they take care of you, they make your meals and Ross even went for his first swim in two years in a swimming pool.
“He was like a wee koala bear at first hanging on but his dad showed him how to kick his legs and move his arms.
“The stay was free through the charity, it is just amazing that they do so much for families affected by cancer.”
Reflecting on the family’s cancer journey, Claire recalled her fears at the time when Ross was first diagnosed.
“We didn’t know how it was going to turn out, and looking back I wonder how I coped with it,” she said.
“I work at Ballyclare Secondary School and the staff and principal there have been fantastic.
“We are all praying that Ross will continue to get better and go from strength to strength.”